First Thanksgiving in Winnacunnet Plantation
In 1638 the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony designated the “last Thursday of the 8th month” (October 25) as a public day of thanksgiving in appreciation of the good spring weather, the ripening harvest, and the “safe coming of so many ships this year.” Governor John Winthrop noted in his journal that 20 ships and at least 3,000 persons had arrived that year, “so that they were forced to look out to new plantations.” Winnacunnet, or as Winthrop spelled it, “Winicowett,” was one of those new plantations, settled by a group from Newbury led by Reverend Stephen Bachiler. According to Bachiler’s letter to John Winthrop, Jr., Winnacunnet Plantation (later named Hampton) would be settled on October 14, 1638, making the October 25th day of thanksgiving Hampton’s first.
Designated days of thanksgiving could come at any time during this early period, depending upon the event or circumstance being celebrated. For example, June 11, 1646 was set aside to give thanks for the Puritan victories in “our dear native country.” Autumnal thanksgiving celebrations generally would not become customary in New England until mid-century.